County of Wetaskiwin will pay certain firefighting costs after Jan. 1

County of Wetaskiwin will pay certain firefighting costs after Jan. 1

Councilors strongly debate a mill rate system to collect funds to pay firefighting costs

The County of Wetaskiwin will bring in a policy to spread certain firefighting costs across all property owners after a strong debate at their regular council meeting Dec. 18.

The issue of covering firefighting costs was raised several weeks ago by municipal fire chief Mike Zajak, who had presented to council on the issue of local fire departments presenting residents with firefighting bills sometimes ranging into the thousands of dollars.

It should be noted that there is a difference between insurance coverage for property damages caused by fire, and firefighting costs that include staff, fire-fighting vehicles etc. It’s been noted at county meetings before that some people get these costs mixed up.

The discussion also included the fact that some other municipalities do not direct bill for firefighting costs; some have a mill rate in place that collects a small fee from every property owner, then places that fee in an account and uses the money to pay for firefighting costs as they arise.

The issue was presented to council by assistant CAO Jeff Chipley, who stated in his memo, “On July 3, 2018 at the Council General meeting, Council tasked Administration to calculate the costs to have taxation cover emergency responses, instead of the current fee for service model currently being utilized.”

Chipley stated in his memo staff looked at the past four years to estimate what effect a countywide fee would have on ratepayers. “The following is a table of the four year average of invoiced revenues per fire zone that would need to be covered County wide by taxes on an annual basis totaling $217,993.25. Council requested Administration calculate special tax that would work for all County fire zones. The calculations were obtained from the Assessment Department and based on the 2017 assessment of total taxable assessment; the calculation for the special tax is .077 mills. This means the dollar value per $100,000 of assessment is $7.68. For example a property assessed at $400,000 would cost the property owner $30.72/yr.”

Much of the debate centered on whether all emergency services should be covered, or only medical response calls. Councilor Kathy Rooyakkers supported the later.

Councilor Josh Bishop stated he was aware private insurance companies offer coverage for firefighting services and was opposed to charging a mill rate for something that’s covered in insurance policies. “We’re duplicating a service,” said Bishop.

Councilor Ken Adair stated that, looking at the agenda memo and the prediction of roughly $30 per household, the cost is very low for an important service. Councilor Bill Krahn agreed.

Councilor Lyle Seely stated he thought, during strategic planning sessions, councilors had reached a consensus to support a flat fee for countywide firefighting services.

Reeve Terry Van de Kraats stated he’d heard from some ratepayers over the years that they would accept the mill rate for firefighting because it’s one less thing for people to worry about if a fire occurs. “I like the countywide service,” said the reeve.

Councilor Seely pondered whether a countywide mill rate would affect service levels in different parts of the county; councilors also discussed the fact a mill rate is connected to property values, and property values are not the same in every part of the County of Wetaskiwin.

A motion was made to, in essence, leave the firefighting service as status quo but cover medical first response calls; this was defeated by a 2 to 4 vote, Rooyakkers and Bishop in favor.

The next motion was to go with what was called option #6 on the agenda memo, a countywide mill rate, and include medical first response. This was passed by a 4 to 2 vote, Rooyakkers and Bishop opposed. It was stated at the meeting this would take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

Chipley stated in his report, “Any Alberta Transportation calls (motor vehicle collisions, on Provincial highways), negligent burning calls, First Nations, non-County rate payer, outside County Mutual Aid, or any person who was in contravention of Fire Bylaw 2016/44 would still be billed to the responsible party.”

Stu.salkeld@pipestoneflyer.ca

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province has seen its first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer
City of Wetaskiwin releases 50-year Community Vision results

The comprehensive community vision has been divided into five core pillars.

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta passes bill to give all workers paid leave to get COVID-19 vaccine shot

Labour Minister Jason Copping says Bill 71 will reduce barriers for Alberta workers to get vaccinated

Alberta completed 18,412 COVID-19 tests, as reported on Wednesday, for a test positivity rate of 9.5 per cent. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Highest daily count of 2021 so far: Alberta reports 1,699 COVID-19 cases

Variants now make up 59 per cent of Alberta’s active cases

Screen grab/ https://www.alberta.ca/stats/covid-19-alberta-statistics.htm#geospatial
COVID-19 cases continue to grow in the Wetaskiwin area

The City of Wetaskiwin currently has 141 active cases.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Alberta bill would protect health workers, care homes from some COVID-19 lawsuits

The bill proposes exempting a range of workers, including doctors, pharmacists and care-home operators, from being sued over COVID-19 unless it was for gross negligence

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was in Red Deer on Friday to provide an update on the province's COVID-19 response in schools.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Alberta government aiming to boost financial literacy among students

Government providing grants to organizations who will help design financial literacy programming

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

Most Read